January 23./ Leaving Social Media (again)

Staying off social media has been an interesting change in my life lately. A couple weeks ago I decided to deactivate my Facebook account and remove SnapChat, Instagram, and a couple other apps from my phone. The motivation for this decision was a bit blurry and undefined.

A few times each year I get frustrated at something. I struggle to define what it is exactly. Not only in communicating this to others but I struggle to understand what it is within myself. Sometimes it feels like loneliness, other times it feels like a desire to retreat from others.

There were various reasons for this withdrawal; social media’s inability to duplicate one-on-one relationships with other people, how distracting it can be to wonder if I have any notifications (or that I can neurotically check them at any moment), the onslaught of memes that deliver humor but lack substance, or finally how blindly this can consume large pockets of my life.

Perhaps it’s out of nostalgia but MySpace will always feel like the original social media to me. It didn’t have an instant messenger and there was no infinite NewsFeed to scroll through. Although it supplemented relationships, it never felt like it was replacing them.

With live video on Facebook, Messenger installed for texting, and customized NewsFeeds, it feels like Facebook has deeply ingrained itself in how I maintain relationships with my friends and family. Leaving social media has felt like I’ve hacked away at those relationships.

One relationship that’s particularly damaged at the moment is the one that I have with myself. Empty moments where normally nothing demands my attention have disappeared. Between tasks, I pull out my phone and check for updates. It’s not that I’m desiring news but that I’m filling periods where I’d normally be doing nothing.

For example, when I wake up I silence my alarm and check my phone. When I go to the bathroom, I’m scrolling through a newsfeed. If there isn’t a conversation going on in the car with friends, I probably have my phone out. Sometimes when I’m walking I’m looking at Facebook more than I’m looking at my environment.

What am I looking for? I’m not sure exactly. Exciting news? To cover moments that I would feel bored? To stay ‘connected’? Maybe a mixture, I haven’t really figure it out. What I do know is that the cost of looking for these things is my attention. And my attention, unfortunately, is limited.

The content of social media is mostly white noise. My Facebook NewsFeed consisted of  only a couple stories relevant to my friends and family when I left. It was mostly memes, politics, recipes, lots of ads, and irrelevent short videos. There was no central substance or social expression of my friends other than sharing someone else’s content.

Don’t get me wrong, this content can be interesting and expresses what a person likes – but it does not foster social connection in a way that justifies how much time I spend using it.

It isn’t like binging a TV show on Netflix where you finish a season of your favorite show and wonder where the weekend has gone. It’s so much more subtle than that. Those empty moments I spoke about before; rolling over in bed in the morning, riding in the car with friends, even walking down the street; they’re valuable.

It’s hard to define their worth because these moments are empty. Normally we would be doing nothing in their absence. But emptiness itself is valuable. It’s filled with possibility and needed transition time.

In the car with friends, maybe I’ve missed conversation because I’ve been on my phone. Or maybe there’s a bond that happens when multiple people are together, not distantly looking at Facebook, even if nothing is said. When I’m out walking and looking at my phone, maybe I’m too zoned out from what’s actually happening around me. Maybe I need to let my mind idle for a few minutes before I get where I’m going.

I just know that I’ve felt restless and unable to define why. I’ve felt busy, though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve felt lonely, though I’m connected to many people. I struggle to balance this and I know that many other people feel the same way and perhaps they don’t understand it either.

So disconnecting myself hasn’t ultimately changed my life. I still wake up and go to work each day. I’m not filled with tranquility or any other emotion. But I do notice the empty moments now.

When I sit at work and everyone around me is on their phone, I open my eyes and look around. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I stretch in my bed and begin the day without taking on the burden of knowing what’s happening somewhere else. I can sit down with my breakfast and gaze out the window at the bustling world – knowing that ultimately I’m here. There’s no notification, no urge to fill the empty moments with empty content, no reason to neurotically try to strengthen relationships with others. Just here and now.

 

Advertisements

13/365

Well it looks like I missed a day. Whoops. Here’s a picture of me almost a year ago:

IMG_0252

It’s hard to believe that eventually I’ll leave this place. We’re never permanently in an area, yet we still cling to them. Charleston has been my home for a little over a year. I’ve learned the names of the local streets, know which grocery stores are open late, and where to eat when I’ve craving certain foods. While it’s true that I will learn these things at every place I live, it’s still hard to let go of familiarity.

It’s ultimately a lesson of appreciating what you have while you have it. Currently I appreciate the afternoon thunderstorms, the friends around me, and all the seafood. These things won’t last. Unfortunately they will be left behind. But I try my best to take it all in. I am grateful for each of these experiences and I hope that when I finally do leave, I’ll have completely and utterly experienced them.

Page 13 of 365

Continuing on as if yesterday didn’t happen. #YOLO or something like that.

The First Quarter of 2015 (5/365)

For the last three weeks, I’ve been trying to find an outlet for what I’ve been feeling. My life has rapidly changed since the beginning of the year and I’m at loss on how to describe it. Occasionally writing helps, so bear with me, this is going to be a vent/rant/sloppy mess of a blog post.

The year started off on a high note with an unexpected friendship. I grew close to a guy very rapidly and spent the first couple months talking to him. Most of my days were spent texting or being around him.

Work calmed down and I started getting requests to photograph events. Promotion and retirement ceremonies became commonplace. Larger events started taking place at work and I was requested to photograph them as well.

My attention was spread between the guy and the events I was photographing. In my free time, I struggled to focus on my own interests because I was so busy texting or coordinating with other people about the pictures. In attempt to relax, I tried getting back into video games and TV.

Instead of loosening up, I only distracted myself. The way I relax is through creating, photographing, blogging, and exploring. Watching TV only diverts my attention from doing what I love.

The last weekend in February I was incredibly stressed out. I photographed for a large event and people were pressuring me for the images. The guy I was talking to just had a family member pass, so I was giving him space. On top of that, work was starting to get busy again.

One night I texted the guy asking if he was alright. He had been quiet for a few days. I told him if he wanted someone to talk to I was there for him. He replied saying that he had been seeing someone lately and that he could see dating the new guy. When I asked why he didn’t tell me before, he said that we hadn’t talked much in the last week. He considered us more of ‘friends’.

The next day I got an email from work saying that they were going to have me move. In the military, it’s common to be reassigned to a different base – especially in your first contract. The place they decided to send me? Hickam, Hawaii.

Between getting jilted and the news that I was going to be moving, I didn’t sleep. For hours, I laid in bed with my mind swirling. I didn’t know where things were going with the guy but I didn’t expect it to stop so suddenly.

When you spend a large amount of your free time talking to someone and then they leave, it feels like there’s a hole in you. We weren’t romantic. I didn’t really entertain the idea of dating this guy. But we spent so much time talking, that when we stopped, I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

With the stress at work, the additional load of photographing events, this guy, and Hawaii, I didn’t know how to feel. Initially I rejected most of it. At work I sunk into a quiet depression. There was too much empty time; I couldn’t distract myself from my thoughts. My love of photography turned into a frustration. It stopped being art and became more stress on my back.

I could have denied Hawaii. Staying in Charleston for the next two years sounded like a good idea. The time would go by quickly and I could move to some other part of the country.

However, my feelings for this guy had turned into a bitter affection. I wanted some sort of resolution with him but there wasn’t anything left to say. He made his move. I started to analyze what we had texted each other. Was I wrong? Did I say something? In my head I obsessed over finding a solution. Maybe it was me. After all, I didn’t clarify our friendship into a relationship. I felt like it was my fault. Leaving for Hawaii meant abandoning the possibility of finding a resolution.

The next week I decided that moving would be a good decision. It became clear that there wasn’t going to be a smooth ending. There wasn’t anything left that I could do. He started dating another guy and didn’t even apologize about the confusion. Moving suddenly became an escape rope and a chance to start over in a new city.

One week after the guy and I split, an old friend talked to me. We were up all night hanging out like we usually did. Towards the end we laid out on his bed listening to music. It had been a long year for us in Charleston. We both were exhausted.

Conversation between us slowed and music enveloped his room. There were gaps where we’d have a few minutes without saying a word to each other. After a particularly long pause, he told me that he had something to say. My hand was across his chest at this point. His heartbeat was picking up but still there was silence.

After a few minutes, he told me about how he liked me. Leaving was going to be hard on both of us. It was rougher than either of us imagined. We spent the following week close together.

All these emotions slewed around in my head. The creative outlets like blogging and photographing were so distant. My friends felt far away. Being suddenly abandoned disoriented me. Hawaii destroyed any expectations I had for the future. This guy made me feel like I was on top the world.

This has been the first quarter of 2015. I don’t know where the rest of the year will take me. I’m caught between terrified and excited. Leaving friends here is going to be difficult, making new ones won’t be easy, and moving to the middle of the ocean is definitely a change. No matter what happens though, the rest of the year will certainly be interesting.

Anyways, this has become longer than it needs to be. I’m sorry for the rant. Have a good night/morning/day, wherever you are!

On a side note, both my cousin Tabitha and my mother Wendy have started blogging today. So before you leave, be sure to check them out! I’m so proud of them!

Page 5 of 365

Going Home

As the end of the year approaches and the holidays finally roll around, many people are going home to visit their loved ones. If they don’t already live near their family, people will be traveling all over the country. Last year, when I began this project, I wrote a lot about home around the holidays. I wrote some pretty dreary posts, ultimately saying that I didn’t plan on going home for the next four years.

There was a lot of emotional angst with the mentality of I wanted either all of it or none of it. I wanted to go home and stay home or wait until I could stay. It was a rough time. I did end up going home for a couple weeks in March but, for the most part, I stayed out of Minnesota.

As that time of the year comes back, I guess I wanted to bring it up again. I’ve been in Charleston for the last 240 days, or 8 months. I really haven’t left the city since I’ve arrived and some of that angst is coming back.

I won’t finish my contract until May 2017, which is quite a ways away. It’s a long time to stay in South Carolina. However, I still feel the same way as before. I can’t imagine going home just to come back down here. Leave is valuable and takes a long time to replace.

Eighteen years of my life were spent in Minnesota, I want to use my leave going to visit somewhere new. Maybe go to Portland or Boston. In the last year and a half, I’ve been home for 14 days. Yet, I can’t bring myself to use my leave just to go back to someplace I’ve already been. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but I thought it was worth bringing up.

Has anyone else experienced this? I left home a year ago and it seems like everyone here is pushing me to visit. Especially this time of the year. Yet, I don’t know where to go or why exactly I don’t want to go home. It’s just I don’t. Do you have any advice?

340/365

Moving On

Tonight I moved both physically and figuratively. I was assigned a new room, so I’ve been moving my things to another building. But I’ve also been moving figuratively to a new chapter of my life. I don’t know what it means or how my life will be different but I can feel it. I’m moving on in some way.

These last few months I’ve felt different, maybe more independent psychologically. Ironically I’ve been incredibly physically dependent on others since my car died. People offer rides and I’m at the mercy of whatever my friends are doing for the weekend. If no one is doing anything, I have to stay home.

However, I’ve gained a new sense of independence. I’ve spent a lot more time reading and I feel like I’m gaining understanding. Being trapped at home has lead me to focus on inner growth and discovery. I spend more time meditating and less time idly wandering around.

Moving dorms seems to be a large event in my head. It’s a shift between who I am now and the future. I don’t know why but it feels enormous. The independence and dependence have been swirling around in my mind and now a storm is arriving. It’s hot and cold air that, together, form something monstrous. Right now I just feel the wind but I can taste the storm on my tongue.

286/365

Connect

Last October, before I started blogging daily, I wrote an article about a beautiful dream I’d had. I felt lonely and lost but in this dream I was laying in a giant bed with all the animals who had ever lived with me. Their presence comforted me and the loneliness I’d felt vanished for days after I woke back up. It was as though I never felt isolated.

Painting isn’t my specialty but I felt so compelled to create this image. I wanted to keep that feeling for as long as I could. If you click on the image, it will link you back to that post on EveryoneWanders.

img_0142_2

 

Though it may seem silly or strange, that feel engulfed me.

To give a bit of a background, this was the first time I was living on my own. Last year in May I was so busy that I couldn’t breath until almost October. I can’t remember a time that I was so stressed and unable to feel. When I finally felt something, it was usually loneliness or depression. This feeling was a resolution to suffering I dealt with for those 4/5 months.

When I originally painted this image, I’d stayed up until 5 in the morning painting. Inexperience drags out the creation process but I was inspired. I don’t think I even looked at the lock until I was done. There was so much focus on the emotion it created within me that I forgot everything else.

Since my last friend left here, I’ve had a similar feeling come back. Instead of feeling all of my animals laying lazily on a bed with me, I’ve felt like all of my friends are walking with me. I feel comforted by this feeling. It’s like everyone is a part of me and I carry that with me wherever I go.

Whenever I feel lonely, I remember this feeling. I think about all of my animals laying beside me or walking down the street with every person I’ve met. I feel the moments where we’ve connected and been together. Suddenly that depression evaporates and I feel connected with the world.

Our anxieties are so much less that we see them in our head. Our loneliness or depression are amplified there and we cannot feel their limits. It’s important to not be afraid of the depths of your feelings. You don’t always know how much of a feeling you can feel. This is where your creativity will stem from: reaching into those depths and pulling them out to show people. Even beautiful things can come out of dark places.

187/365

Goodbyes

Having someone leave out of your life is rough and there’s no right time for it. Tomorrow my closest friend leaves to move up to Alaska. Despite having only met him last month it’s difficult to imagine what life is going to be like without him here. When somebody occupies a huge part of your life it’s difficult to let them go. We had a lot of good times and I’m glad I got to know him.

I think that sometimes people are just meant to pass through your life. They’re not meant to stay there and if you knew everyone in your life was going to stay forever, you wouldn’t appreciate them. So although it sucks that he’s leaving, I’m appreciative of having met him.

We spent way too many hours killing Nazi zombies, driving to the beach, and getting off base. I’ll definitely miss him. Here are some pictures from the past month:

2014-05-06 22.18.15 2014-05-06 18.25.01 2014-05-23 06.14.34 2014-05-26 20.37.09

176/365